Coco Gauff ready to take the court in Atlanta Open exhibition match

The Atlanta Open will run from this weekend through July 31 at Atlantic Station, featuring its toughest field yet. Top players such as John Isner, Nick Kyrgios and Reilly Opelka will take the court in hopes of bringing home the championship trophy.

After a couple of days of men’s qualifying matches, the Atlanta Open turns to its annual women’s play, which this year consists of two exhibition matches that feature three top names in women’s tennis. Former Atlanta resident Coco Gauff will take part in each match.

“I think it will just be different just playing in front of the familiar city that you’re used to, that you grew up in,” Gauff said. “I think that would be different, and I know I’m going to see a lot of familiar faces in the crowd, too. That’s what I’m not used to because I’m playing everywhere except home. So, I’m excited to see some familiar faces.”

Gauff was scheduled to take on Leylah Fernandez in the Open. However, on Wednesday night, Fernandez announced that she had withdrawn from the exhibition because of a foot injury she suffered at the French Open.

Gauff now will face 2020 Auckland Open doubles winner Taylor Townsend at 7 p.m. Sunday and five-time WTA singles title holder Sofia Kenin at 7 p.m. Monday. Kenin will make her return to the court in this exhibition match after battling a right ankle injury.

“I’m hoping that she’s completely healthy, and I’m glad to see her back on tour. … She’s obviously a great competitor, and I think it’s going to be a fun match,” Gauff said.

Since making her professional debut in 2019, Gauff has continued to establish herself as one of the better young tennis players in the game. She holds two WTA titles in the 2019 Linz Open and Emilia-Romagna Open. She currently holds a career-high No. 11 world ranking in singles and a No. 6 world ranking in doubles.

Gauff will enter this exhibition match as the 2022 French Open runner-up and is coming off two wins in the 2022 Wimbledon Championships before losing in the third round.

“These past couple of months have been, I guess, a range of emotions from, you know, anxiety, happiness, disappointment, everything, and I’m thankful for these past couple months, and I learned a lot from it, Gauff said. “I learned a lot about myself from it, and I think I’ve just learned the most that … after losses, you learn a lot, even though it feels kind of bad in the moment, but once you take time to reflect, you can get a lot from it.”

While both matches are exhibitions, Gauff aims to make sure she balances serious play and having fun with this opportunity.

She said she still will compete to her fullest potential, but wants the game “for sure to be super positive and upbeat. I mean, I’m really excited. Definitely some big, big hitting I’m not really good at trick shots,” she joked. “I can’t do any trick shots and maybe I might try to throw in a couple, but I don’t know I’d probably be more like failures, but you know, it’ll make the crowd laugh.”